Flags in the church

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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I saw the title and was hoping for a discussion on the issue of flags in the church.

[Edit: I ought to explain more] In my circles, flags are always in the sanctuary, with the American Flag being given pride of place. If two flags are run up the pole, the American Flag is always on top. And it never crossed my mind to see a problem until a couple years ago.

Also, it’s not uncommon for sermons to take their cues from headlines, and regularly reference Fox and CNN and fake news and the President. That had never bothered me either.

But I’ve come to realize that at least in my circles, that unconscious use of symbols has led to an unconscious embrace of idolatry in their patriotism. The article touched there, but took a hard turn without telling me what to do, or even giving a substantial critique or warning. So I left unsatisfied.

Fortunately, I can come to sanityville and lay out my complaint and I might be heard;)

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You are out of the ordinary here.

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I’m realizing that. Lol. Which is ok, you’ll get used to it.

Also, I’ll be moving to Martinsville, Indiana sometime in the next six months. Who knows, you may meet me someday.

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I should explain, too. :slight_smile: I meant that mostly people here aren’t in those broad circles (anymore). They’ve moved on from churches with flags. The temptation among many here is probably more toward despising such churches for their backwardness than falling into idolatry of America.

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I figured that was what you meant. I’ve come to realize how unique my circle is and not to expect my reading to apply to it without significant “translation”.

I think the thing that has been so strange to me as I’m getting out more is that since our churches were very small and extremely Conservative (I’d often hear sermons against wedding bands, though no one wore them, and guys wearing shorts was a topic too…), I was amazed to find that in many other ways we were just like all the other churches around. Culture is a lot more than skin deep for sure.

I think you should move to Bloomington and be an Arminian in the midst of (mostly) Reformed women and men. We’d benefit from you, and I’d hope, you from us. So appreciate you, dear brother. One of the speakers at our next conference is still a Quaker, sacramentally. My dear friend Kent Hughes—the Reformed anti-sacramentalist. BTW, you should listen to our sermons on Romans 9 just now. They may help you come to a Biblical (smile) position on God’s decrees.

Finally, for what it’s worth, I am against flags in churches and have many times preached against statist idolatry (many would see simply as patriotism) on the Lord’s day closest to the Fourth of July.

Love,

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Please do come down and give us a visit. We’d love to meet you!

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Your final paragraph brings clarity.

Kent Hughs is coming to your conference?! When is it?? I love his Preaching the Word commentary. To hear him in person would be incredible.

I would enjoy listening through your Romans 9 sermons. I have learned much from my Reformed friends, and I have repented of my fixation with free will. We would have much to agree about. There are still some sticking points, but I do hope to visit the church in Bloomington someday. Sooner than later.

Don’t know yet, but he and Barb have agreed to come. Love,

Well written. Our church gently phased out the two flags over a period of years. And we have similarly been gentle with both the congregation and the public as mask and attendance requirements ebb and flow based on the latest from the state and the county. In both cases we see demure action as prudent even though it disappoints members on both sides of the respective debates.

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“Three years into their revolution, COVID-19 showed up, and it was their dream! Imagine some heretofore unknown way to reverse the President’s economic gains, shut everyone but inner-city rioters up at home, wipe out the small businesses of those hard working men and women who cast their vote for President Trump, allowed the civil authorities to keep churches from meeting, caused the Western world to listen to the lying media and their experts as if their lives depended upon it; then later, for all of them—every last one of them—to be required by law to cover their faces with the unAmerican flag. As I said, it was a dream come true.”

I’ve been waiting 6 months to read something like this from Tim! Congratulations brother, you’re now a dangerous right wing conspiracist science hater. :slight_smile:

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One interesting point on flags in church, is that in the UK it is just about unknown. It has been like this for years. It would feel real strange to come into a church to see the Union Jack being flown; at all. (The exception is Protestant churches in Northern Ireland, where the Union Jack still seems to be a fixture, but that is tied up in that area’s complex history). Theologically, a church building is meant to be ‘a house of prayer for all nations’, and having a national flag there takes away from that.

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Do you guys have a “pledge of allegiance” (to the flag) over there?

No, not at all.

Good for y’all. It’s creepy.

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A thought on flags in church and the pledge of allegiance…

Like most intellectual snobs who move from broad evangelicalism to the Reformed faith, I’ve had a settled conviction against flags in church for a long time. I don’t care much for the Pledge of Allegiance either. For this attitude I have to lay the blame, partially, at the feet of Joe Sobran.

In recent years I’ve softened on flags and the Pledge of Allegiance. As a disembodied brain exercise, I still think flags in churches are bad, but we aren’t disembodied brains and church life isnt a well oiled machine designed by Reformed engineers. There are broader cultural signals that are being sent by flags, and deeper reflection makes it all clear. Read the room and understand why people do what they do. It’s about the Okie from Muskgogee.

In this sense American Christians, for all of our vain pride in “American exceptionalism,” aren’t so different from Christians in earlier ages who made their King the head of their national church or who hailed Emperor Constantine. (Edit: Which is to say that throughout the history of the church simple Christians have conflated their love for Christ with love for their country. Was some of it idolatrous? Yes. Is it normal? Yes. Should prissy Reformed people get upset about it? No. ) Maybe instead of losing our minds about it and giving lectures about it, we should bear with people and let it go. Let bygones be bygones. I’ve given up worrying and learned to love the flags. Theoretically I want them gone. Practically I don’t raise a fuss. I don’t punch right. I don’t get the vapors over Boomer displays of Fox News patriotism.

It’s the same with the Pledge. For a while, I declined to say it for reasons I thought were principled. Now I realize I was just being a narcissist and it’s just a pledge and I ought to just submit to the traditions of my elders who say it, no harm done. It’s more important to signal who I side with in the culture war than to signal my deep thoughts about this and that.

Am I being an idolater? Perhaps. Life is too short to be so engineerish and exacting in our supposed principles. Just say the Pledge and wave the flag and tell grandma you love her apple pie. And let’s make America great again.

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In many respects, the US flag fills the gap made when we rejected the monarchy. The British still have a monarch so don’t need to venerate their flag as much as we do or pledge allegiance (?) to it.

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Wise, dear brother. Thank you.

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